Storytelling Project with US-American Partner University 

Category: Englisch

Workshop with students of the master's program "International Management"

Group Picture with Prof. Dr. Sarah Keller (far right), Prof. Dr. Renate Link, Alexandra Krimm (all AUAS) as well as hosting master's and visiting U.S. students

Study Abroad: Students from Montana State University Billings examine the challenges of integrating foreign-born individuals.

In May 2019, five students from Montana State University Billings (MSUB) Study Abroad visited their German partner institution, the University of Applied Sciences at Aschaffenburg, to collaborate with students from the International Management Master’s Program and international incoming students to study inter-cultural communication. The project, entitled, the Syrian Refugee Storytelling Project, May 4-16, was led by Dr. Sarah N. Keller, Professor, Dept. of Communication & Theatre, Montana State University Billings, a 4-year regional university located in the Rocky Mountain region of the United States.

The purpose of the trip was to enable MSUB students to learn from and engage with international students to examine the challenges of integrating foreign-born individuals into a new society. Students spent part of their time interviewing refugees living in Germany about their experiences with health care, human rights and acculturation. The stories were videotaped and edited into a storytelling documentary, giving a global voice to relay the first-hand experiences of consenting refugees and cultural boundary conditions.

At Aschaffenburg UAS, the U.S. students played interactive simulation games with the students of the International Management master’s program in Prof. Dr. Renate Link’s International Competencies class where they engaged in intercultural communication games with the master’s students on two separate days of workshops entitled “On the Road with the Migrants: A game to help understand the realities migrants are facing worldwide” and “Applying Gamification Tools: Using Lego Serious Play for Grasping Strangeness & Cultural Roots”. In addition, the U.S. guests were hosted to a Bavarian breakfast by the Vice-President Prof. Dr. Holger Paschedag, received an Arabic dinner prepared in the new dorms by international students, took part in an International Evening as well as an outing to the municipal theatre together with the international participants of Prof. Dr. Renate Link’s elective Business Seminar Germany. The week was full of fostering friendships, reaching out across cultures, and building opportunities to apply academic skills to intercultural understanding.

The Montana students prepared for this international studies program through a university seminar on the use of communication as a tool for unveiling human rights violations and promoting health equity, across cultures, using the refugee communities as an example. The goal of this study abroad project is to give students a comprehensive understanding of the situation of refugees and migrants in Germany, and to enable them to discover cultural, educational and language-related boundary conditions through the research project. The students’ study will establish an overall profile of selected refugees and migrants; and seek to identify the levels of care and integration services available. The qualitative data generated through this project may inform the design of a quantitative questionnaire for future research to measure the degrees of awareness including knowledge, indicators and availability of treatment about specific disorders as baseline comparison for an interventional pilot study, and contribute to the design of an intervention.

The project is being conducted in partnership with the Global Health Equity Foundation, a non-profit organization that advocates on behalf of people who lack access to health education, prevention services, and healthcare. Since 2007, the Foundation has sponsored projects in the United States as a 501(c)(3) organization, and since 2012, GHEF opened its headquarters in Geneva, Switzerland as a registered non-profit.

The administrative program for the MSUB visit to Aschaffenburg UAS in the framework of this project was coordinated by Alexandra Krimm, Incoming Coordinator, and the academic program by Prof. Dr. Renate Link, Vice Head of the Language Center.